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An HIV vaccine: where is it?

Posted on September 30th, 2007 in General,Health by Robert Miller

Since HIV surfaced in the 1980s, 60 million worldwide have been infected and 20 million have died. Currently about 3 million die each year from HIV and in some parts of Africa HIV is an epidemic. World-wide HIV is the fourth leading cause of death and the leading cause of death in sub-Saharan Africa. Once HIV infection carried with it an almost automatic death sentence, and in many parts of Africa this remains true today, although the antiretroviral drugs that help prolong the lives of the afflicted, that are commonly available here in the United States and Europe, are beginning to reach poorer African countries with reduced costs. Since these drugs to not cure the disease, but prolong the lives of those infected, the real hope for HIV remains in developing an effective and safe vaccine. As you know, in the United States the most common form of AIDS transmission has been through homosexual contact, but in Africa, the most common transmission mode has been heterosexual transmission. In Sub-Saharan Africa there are an estimated 500 000 infants who contract HIV each year. Transmission to children can occur in utero, at birth or through breast feeding. The antiretroviral drugs prevent transmission from mother to infant, so pregnant women in Africa get a high priority for antiretroviral drug therapy, even thought the drugs are not yet in sufficient supply to reach all those infected.

Dan Rather on the comeback trail

Posted on September 29th, 2007 in Culture,Politics by Robert Miller

You surely all remember the “60 minutes II” piece that Dan Rather did on Bush’s missing national guard activities during the 2004 election campaign. The documents that were produced to validate his story were soundly attacked by the right-wing bloggers as forgeries and CBS undertook a “review” of the story, ultimately firing Rather, who became the symbol of the liberal media gone haywire. But now Dan Rather, using his own deep pockets, has initiated a lawsuit against CBS that promises to reveal the sham circumstances of the review and his firing. He will not settle out of court, which is the usual procedure for these kinds of suits, but instead will pursue the issue in order to get depositions from all those involved. Rather maintains that his firing from CBS was a deliberate effort on the part of CBS to curry favor with the Bush administration, as CBS (Viacom) was up for license renewal. Rather claims that the veracity of his story was validated by the CBS investigation, but important elements were left out of the report and the sham nature of the investigation was predesigned to fire Rather, something that only occurred once Bush’s re-election was assured.

E.O. Wilson on Rachel Carson

Posted on September 29th, 2007 in Culture,Environment,Politics,Science by Robert Miller

Billy Moyer’s Journal has a small piece on Rachel Carson and her impact as conveyed by E.O. Wilson. The influence of Rachel Carson on our environmental awareness has been remarkable, especially for someone who died shortly after her major publication “Silent Spring,” leaving her message to be carried by her written words rather than her presence. Her work directly led to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Endangered Species Act and instilled in the World a new attitude about the impact that our activities, industrial waste and chemical products have on the balance of nature. Although her book focused on DDT, which was banned in the 1970s, her writing and concerns illuminated an area that was long overdue for intense inspection and public scrutiny.

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